Hitler’s War by Harry Turtledove: Book Review

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Hitler’s War by Harry Turtledove. I haven’t read any of Mr Turtledove’s stuff before, so I picked this up with some excitement and trepidation – you never quite know if you are going to like a new author or not!

I found it quite an unusual book in some ways.

The story is told from various viewpoints but all by someone on the front-line of the war – whether privates and NCOs fighting with the armies of the warring countries, or pilots and a U-boat captain, or civilians directly affected by the war. The action is largely away from the planning of the war and the grand view of the generals and politicians, and concentrates on the effects of war on the common soldier and civilian.

Although Turtledove does a good job of giving us a good feel of what war would be like for all his different characters, I do find it disconcerting that all his characters have an American tone of voice. The book has more the feel of a comic book strip sometimes because of this.

Also I was puzzled about where the book was going. You don’t actually get any resolution. The war doesn’t end, but just seems to be entering a new phase, one that is different from original history. I suspect that other books will follow, but this is not at all clear from anything printed in the front-matter or on the front and back covers. Wikipedia states that the novel is part of a series.

Overall I found the style engaging and readable, but ultimately I didn’t feel that I was any the wiser. Why did Turtledove see the events of WWII happening differently? The book doesn’t seem to answer that fundamental question. Also I found the structure of stringing together a series of vignettes to describe the experience of a large cast of characters ultimately unsatisfying. A lot of the episodes felt very similar, yet I never really had the feeling for what one character’s overall experience was like because the narrative never stayed with anyone for very long.

I think I would try another of Turtledove’s books, but probably not from this new series.

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